My new co-founder (no contract signed yet) has suddenly showed frustration about us having to go through discussions about design, wire-framing, and fine-tuning ideas for our SaaS startup. We have not done any yet, I pretty much brought the idea and I wanted us to brainstorm these things, including market research.
His idea is that we should go to a big famous development shop (the ones that charge 20K+ for a website), that these guys will do the scoping with us, that we don't need anything other than the bare bone idea to start working with them.
What do you guys think? I personally feel that scoping with a big dev shop can help a lot but don't feel this is a substitute for careful research and fine tuning on our end.
Frustration so early on about doing work??? I would re-think who you are partnering with. Everything else is futile if that is wrong. Having been through similar type partners in the past, my experience and opinion would lead me to say adios and find a partner more willing to grind out work and evaluating being as lean as possible.
TL;DR go do a design sprint, as others suggested. Make sure you make things tangible, fast!
Now, a big shop will help you a lot, if you have experience outsourcing work. I’ve worked for a major software firm for over 13+ years and I‘ve seen many, many projects fail before they start due to slim budgets, overinflated expectations and inexperienced leaders.
Early-stage prototyping can be effectively done hiring individuals as needed. Conserve your budget, make ideas tangible, put them in front of customers, iterate
There are no golden bullet decisions, what you should do. I think to do some basic wireframes/block schemes, could help you to structure your ideas, as any visuals help to think about what you want to get from it. So it is more like a block scheme of what you want to achieve, rather than actual screens.
And as long as you keep in mind, that this is the only purpose of it, it is fine, as of course, you need a team of actual experts that would be able to take it too a completely different level. A good studio will help you to understand the advantages and limitations of the technologies and wouldn't price an entire project, until the actual wireframing and detail technical requirements is done (and of course they would charge for it - usually at the special rate).
Ideally Scoping is two-way Effort. You want to involved throughout the Scoping Process for two reasons :
1) When you launch the product and look for Seed Investors, you would find a hard time in VC' discussion.
2) Great things are always between the lines, it would be quite hard to do something minutely unique if one has not been completely involved in the process.
A good approach might be to work with an Offshore Scoping Team and get involved in the day to day process. You would save money and Two brains are always better.
You'll be throwing money down the toilet. Your bare bone idea will help make the agency make money not you. The best people that will help shape your ideas are actually your potential customers. Go find and speak to them, then draw it up on paper. An agency will charge you an arm amdand a leg and youllyou'll learn nothing from it.
I agree whole-heartedly with @David M. Your partner should not be someone unwilling to roll up their sleeves. There is no better kind of work than the research and planning you do as founders all by yourselves. By all means, you can certainly engage a design firm later to help you REFINE your idea, but never to come up with your idea or map it out for you. That's not only lazy, but impossible to expect an outsider to know the intimate nuances of your industry, market, customers, and vision.
All outsourced work is in some way diminished in its possible effect simply because the outsiders don't have a stake in the outcome and don't live and breathe the business. Generally you can expect that it will cost you around 1/3 the cost to develop something yourself as to hire it out. And you will have people in-house working 100% on just your thing, instead of outside working on your thing maybe 30% of their time.
You should not even consider talking to an outside dev shop until AFTER you have completed your marketing strategy, tested your assumptions, and ascertained your product-market fit. While you could hire a coach to walk you through those steps, it is critically valuable to complete those steps yourselves. Not only will it teach you more about your business, information you can use forever going forward, it will also stop you from throwing good money at (most) bad ideas.